Sacha Chiniara, Yale School of Management, MBA Candidate, 2018
As part of Endeavor’s annual eMBA program, MBA students from around the country are selected to work on-site with our entrepreneurs for 10 weeks during the summer. Sacha Chiniara spent her summer working with Floyd, an innovative furniture company supported by Endeavor Detroit.
I had three criteria for my summer internship: I wanted to work with a tangible product, to develop a strategy that would make an impact, and to contribute to a company that integrates social and environmental objectives into its model. My summer at Floyd, Inc. delivered all three in spades.
I first came across Floyd when its original 2014 Kickstarter was featured on a design blog I used to read during lunch breaks. Last spring, I found Floyd’s posting for an MBA intern on Endeavor’s job board, and things came full circle. By then, Floyd’s product line had evolved to center around The Floyd Bed, an easy-to-assemble and disassemble minimalist platform that minimizes furniture waste by breaking the cycle of buying and trashing cheap furniture with every move.
This summer, my project centered on developing a reverse logistics strategy for returned and damaged inventory. As it turns out, furniture is an especially tricky space for reverse logistics. Shipping bulky, fragile items is costly and products made of mixed materials limit recycling options. Given Floyd’s distinctive aesthetic and aspirational brand, I wanted to avoid the most common solution—channeling product into secondary markets—to prevent brand dilution.
From conversations with the team, I identified three goals: to recuperate otherwise lost value, to uphold Floyd’s ethos of keeping furniture out of landfills, and to maintain a strong customer experience and brand. Developing a strategy for a relatively new discipline (reverse logistics only emerged about a decade ago) at a young startup was an exciting challenge that provided plenty of opportunity for innovation. I led a team brainstorm, during which no idea was too crazy, before ultimately evaluating 10 solutions against 7 criteria. In the process, I got to flex my financial, analytical, research, and project management skills and transfer my pre-MBA experience as a consultant to a new industry.
Now that I’ve rejoined my classmates at Yale School of Management, I’ve come to appreciate how unique a learning experience my summer was. Interning at a 10-person startup provided exposure to nearly every aspect of the company’s operations. I worked closely with customer experience, operations, product design, and marketing to understand their priorities, challenges, and objectives and ensure that my strategy could be implemented after my internship. Through regular conversations with the co-founders, I learned about the excitement and challenges of running a startup and understood how my project fit in to the bigger picture. More than anything, I enjoyed getting to know the team—whether at a casual happy hour or on our week-long retreat in the woods—and tapping into Detroit’s energy as the city continues its transformation.